The Facts About Won’t Back Down

In Education on October 1, 2012 at 8:52 pm

I was really worried about the movie Won’t Back Down when I first read that it was in production. I’ve done extensive reading on the charter school movement and almost everything I’ve learned leans on the idea that it is an absolute hustle for privatized education. What is most dangerous is that we understand how it works just the same as we understand the machinations of Wall Street and how it affected our most recent financial crisis. We’re not business executives or educators — with a business degree — so most of us struggle with understanding the tug of war between charter school supporters and teachers unions. That’s why I was worried that the release of this movie would convince people of the broad declarations made by the move: teachers unions are corrupt and charter schools are the answer to low performing schools so just support them and poverty will erase almost over night.

Today, however, I’m feeling a little better after reading last weekends box office report and the reviews for the spiritual sequel to documentary Waiting for Superman. Not only has Rotten Tomatoes given it a fat juicy 34% but it made a paltry 2.7 million dollars over the weekend. That is what we call a box office flop.

Seriously folks, The future of education is a very real and important conversation that we all need to have but we need to do this without conservative billionaires like Phillip Anschutz )who’s Walden Media funded Won’t Back Down) trying to confuse us. Below is a nice little fact sheet about the movie for those who are curious.

Enjoy it, read it, send it out to your friends and get educated damn it!

1. Parent Trigger laws have nothing to do with parent empowerment and everything to do with privatization.

The fictional Parent Trigger law in Won’t Back Down is based on very real legislation being pushed in states across the country, which, in turn, is based on model legislationfrom the right-wing American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). The entire debate surrounding these bills is focused on parents turning a public school into a privately managed charter school.
(Notice how parents taking over a charterschool and making it a public school is never presented as an option. Privatization is a one-way street for ALEC.)

2. No one has actually completed a Parent Trigger to turn a public school into a charter.

Parents in two school districts, both in CA, have tried and failed. In the Compton Unified School District, courts threw out a parent petition to turn one school into a charter. The group who facilitated the signature collection, Parent Revolution, is funded by a charter school operator. (We’re sure it’s a coincidence.) In the Adelanto School District, a similar petition has become mired in a lawsuit over the rescinded signatures of parents who say they were misled about the nature of the petition they signed. Given the Parent Trigger’s track record so far, Won’t Back Down is fictional in more ways than one.

3. Charters aren’t a cure all, but they’re presented as such.

Won’t Back Down and proponents of Parent Trigger laws want you to believe that privately-run charter schools are the shining future of America’s education system. In truth, charters only educate roughly 4% of American students, and studies have shown that most charter schools don’t perform any better than their public school counterparts. Moreover, they’re less accountable and use selective enrollment practices or school policies that push struggling students out of the classroom. Charters, on the whole, don’t represent the systemic change we need to ensure all students have an opportunity to learn, not just a tiny fraction.

4. Unions have a track record of working with communities to improve schools.

As Won’t Back Down would have it, failing schools are the result of lazy teachers, bureaucracy and teachers unions. But as the recent teachers strike in Chicago shows, unions are fighting alongside students, parents and community members for the resources they need to teach and for their students to learn. The unconscionable teacher and union bashing in the film will weaken, not strengthen our schools, and is a distraction from solving the real problems of inequitable resources in our education system.

5. Films like Won’t Back Downand Waiting for Superman are the work of corporations with privatization agendas.

Walden Media is owned by conservative billionaire investor Philip Anschutz, who funds ALEC and some of its members on the Education Task Force. Here’s a longer analysis of the film’s corporate backers, including the film’s distributor, 20th Century Fox, which has ties to, you guessed it, big money with an interest in education privatization.

For more analysis of the facts and myths about Won’t Back Down

  • Analysis from the Center for Media and Democracy
  • Fact Sheet from Parents Across America
  • A blistering film review from The Nation‘s Dana Goldstein
  • An equally scathing review from The Star Tribune

Note: in the interest of full clarity this fact sheet was provided by The National Opportunity to Learn Campaign via the Education for Liberation list serv. Feel free to research those groups as well and form your own opinion. 


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